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Commentary

Want to find more workers? Make it easier to hire people with criminal records.

Source: washingtonpost.com 8/17/21

The U.S. economy seems poised for revival, but “help wanted” signs that keep popping up in windows across the country tell a different story. With millions of positions going unfilled each month, it’s clear that our recovery won’t work unless it works for everyone.

And yet for decades, an entire population of our labor force has been overlooked and undermined: the 77 million Americans with a criminal record.

Because of stigma and misguided laws from the “tough-on-crime” era, job seekers with criminal records — no matter how old the offense — face numerous hurdles to being hired. Job applications often ask candidates to disclose convictions before an interview, effectively halving the likelihood of a callback from a hiring manager. States have imposed tens of thousands of restrictions on licenses for individuals with felonies and misdemeanors, barring those with convictions from profitable trades such as plumbing, real estate and cosmetology. And it was only in September that incarcerated individuals in California who volunteer as firefighters became eligible to fight fires professionally upon leaving prison.

These restrictions contribute to a significant labor crisis: Nearly half of all formerly incarcerated individuals experience unemployment during the full first year following their release. And these challenges are even more acute during the pandemic, with total employment still down from where it was in February 2020. One study from a criminal justice scholar at the University of Central Florida suggests that 30 to 50 percent of people on parole or probation have lost a job during the pandemic.

Beyond hindering our recovery, these barriers also fly in the face of employer needs. Research from the Society for Human Resource Management shows that formerly incarcerated hires achieve the same or better scores on job performance, dependability, promotion potential and retention. While many employers say they are open to hiring people with a record, outdated laws and discriminatory hiring practices remain prevalent, keeping millions of Americans from securing jobs — while denying our economy a swift recovery.
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Currently, thirteen states (and the District of Columbia) have ban-the-box laws that apply to private employers—California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington (the check if convicted of a felony box) on apps, but with the non-punishing (or non-intended but actually punishing) registry or other online tidbits, this effort is nice but still skips over nearly 1M people impacted, who will be most likely dismissed from further employment consideration. 1M people who probably would be the best workers the employer has had.

I must say registrants are employed even if they don’t have a job. That is the labor inherent in the upkeep of database property. In essence, the registration duty is a job of sorts and mandated by penalties in law. How many bits of data does it take to upkeep the insatiable machine? How much contemplation is involved with the mainly administrative? Any change in disposition, a new job, a new school, a new beard, another membership, another association, new church, new email account etc triggers a new task related to the job of registering. BTW is it business address location or job location address?

My boss and his wife are fine people. They believe in second chances. They know my history; we have discussed it; we have put it to sleep; and we moved on. I have been with them now going on 5 years. I am well respected by them for my talent. I am now a supervisor and third in rank. I wish more people were like them. It is an honor working with them.

When we hire we don’t even have the applicant fill out an employment form. If they give us a resume we read it, if not we can always ask questions. Sitting at the conference table and getting to know the applicant is the best way to see if you want to hire them.

Iv been registering for 21 years now and I’m not even 40 yet.
I was forced to register before I ever had a job, so the constant paranoia and fear of being outed by some co-worker is all I know’, you would think after 17 years it would get a little easier but it hasn’t been.
Luckily for me I was able to get in the UNION back in the early 2000s before they started doing background checks, after 2009 people with sex crimes were nolong aloud into the apprenticeship.
The last job I had was going pretty good until me and a couple co-workers got pulled over in my boss’s wife’s car leaving a company party the cop took our ID’s BUT before returning mine he asked me …your a 290 registrant right I replied yes really fast hopping out of respect he would just leave it at that BUT nope he had to ask me if my sex offender registration was concurrent before giving back my ID.
Two weeks later my boss informed me that work was getting slow so their gonna have to let a few people go and handed me my last check and said file your unemployment ASAP
That’s how the last 17 years of working while on the registry has been for me just bouncing from job to job, I start a new job next week and obviously I’m not excited

Good luck

AERO 1,

I have worked at the same job as a sales rep. for 14 years as my company did not

believe in background checks and never had a problem, if you can even believe in such

a concept ! I represent educational content for nursing, schools and hospitals and long

term cares. In about 2011 the educational market would send out a very legal

looking form representing state funding for edu., asking if we employed any people with

sex crimes and we could be disqualified for future funding from institutions? I would

just check no on the form, but I was surprised

they even could do this? The registry has destroyed so much i just dont know what to

say.

@AERO1, you do realize that unless you were the driver or there was a reasonable articulable suspicion you had or were about to commit a crime you had no legal requirement to show your ID right?

Aero. I am SO sorry that you have had to go thru all of this for SO long now. I had a really great job in the banking industry for 27+ years. My offence happened at year 17, but took 10 long years for them to find out and let me go. I never did figure out how they ultimately found out. This was 4 years ago, and I have not worked a steady job since. Good luck to you though. I hope you get the job and it is one that you really like!!

If I were you, I would have contacted the Department of Labor. I had a job years back where the owner kept short changing us on our paychecks. We would work 60 hours and we were lucky if we got paid for 39.5. This went on for a long time and no one wanted to do anything about it because I suppose they were afraid. I wasn’t I went to speak to him first and he got quite hostile about it I told him if he didn’t stop, and if he didn’t pay everyone what he owed us, I would file a complaint. A week later he fired me saying he doesn’t hire felons.
Long story short, I filed 2 complaints. One for the back pay and one for wrongful termination. He tried to say I lied on my job application but I didn’t. I just never answered the question if I’ve ever been convicted. The Labor Department sided with me on both complaints. One: he had to pay back all hours that I worked, which amounted to over $7500, and the stated that because I had worked for him for so long without my past ever being an issue, he was not justified in terminating me for that reason, plus it gave the appearance of retaliation for threatening to file a complaint. That was another $5000. By the time he had to square up with everyone he shorted on their paychecks, he had to close up his business, because I had also filed a complaint with the Department of Transportation for him forcing us to drive unsafe vehicles.
With you working at that bank for all those years and them only letting you go 27 years later because of your record should be a clear cut case as long as you never had any disciplinary action taken against you during your employment. If your statute of limitations has not expired, you should definitely look into it.

Yep, it’s been tough for me to move up in life, let alone maintain stability. For the last nearly 15 years since my release, I’ve been mostly relegated to jobs where no background check is done or where they don’t ask, which has meant settling for pay that just gets me by. In more recent years though, I managed to land a decent-paying job despite my status (which I disclosed to them), but this meant settling for long overnight working hours, after having been turned down by numerous employers (one of which specifically cited my background as the decision not to hire me, which seems odd given the blue-collar nature of my industry). Whether it be employment or housing, it’s been nothing but having to settle for less-than-ideal and reluctance to rock the boat once I achieve a modicum of stability.

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